Many of you know that occasionally I stray from the narrow path that leads to salvation, and wander on the broad road that leads to destruction. I can’t help it. The temptations are near, the daisies are so pretty. I know it is not what the Lord intends. But sometimes, just sometimes, I dance with the idea of straying from the drums – the one, true, holy instrument – and play the guitar. I mentioned this in an earlier post, and suffice to say the Lord has brought me back form the dark valley of g-strings, tuners and plectrums, and led me once more to the babbling brook of beats. I will still occasionally stray. I still want to play guitar. But for now, the drummer in me has come home.
Yesterday I was sitting in a large hall where 3 drum kits were being played at once. All at different times. All by beginners. All loudly. Can there be a more beautiful noise? Ok, yes there can. Nevertheless… Why was I there? A mentoring project for young people, teaching the drums and the didjereedoo. Yes, that’s right. Why? Because in learning these, you learn so much more. Skill, coordination, rhythm, teamwork, listening. Counting to 4. Connecting with the inner rhythm we all possess. If you don’t believe me, try to stop your heart beating. Or try to stop breathing. Ok, don‘t actually do that. We all have built in metronomes. No, not urban gnomes, but the still small voice of the sustainer of life. Stop, and listen.
What I took from yesterday though was this. As I sat with one young person, showed them the rhythm, and they tried it, they could not do it. The arms were tense, the foot was out of time, the coordination was all over the place. And every time they mucked up, they looked at me. For what? I think they were expecting to be told off, or laughed at, or to be given up on. Hah – no chance!
Well done, you can do it. Take a deep breath, and start again. I’ll count for you. One, two, one and two, one, two, one and two. Start with just the hi-hat on one and two, then put the bass drum in on one. And when you’re ready, the snare in on two. Don’t worry, let’s try again. Take a breath, hit the floor tom hard, and we’ll go again. You did it once! Well done! Now let’s go for twice. I can’t. Yes you can. My arms won’t do it. Yes they will. Here, jump up and I’ll show you. Right, count with me. Your go. Excellent! In 10 minutes, they went from can’t do it, to a continuous repetition of 7 times. Is that a lot? For them, oh yes. Brilliant!
What I learnt from this was something profound for me about leadership. Jesus’ model is not to dominate, not to humiliate, not to give up; and also, not to expect miracles on day one. Sitting alongside, affirming, encouraging. And not doing it all. There’s no way someone will learn the drums if you never give them the sticks. There’s no way someone will learn anything if they are constantly told they can’t. The disciples are an example. Many times we see them misunderstand, ask questions, get it wrong. Yes, sometimes Jesus got frustrated. But he always led by example. Even when he knew they would desert him, he washed their feet and affirmed them. And after his resurrection, he cooked for them. For me, that is Jesus teaching the drums. And occasionally doing a brilliant freak-out solo. Jesus was a drummer, and he rocked.
We all muck up in life. It is how we are. As leaders, how we respond to mucking up ourselves, and how we respond to others mucking up, is so important. Character-defining, in fact. As people begin walking the way of Jesus, we count for them. One, two, one and two. When they can, they join in. We sit with them, as they muck up and look to us, what look do we give them? Disappointment, hopelessness, boredom… do we move on to someone who will develop quicker? That can be the temptation. Or do we take a deep breath, smile, and affirm. Start again, from the top.
Who counts for you, when you need it?
Noisy it may be. 3 drum kits in one room. Three rhythms competing for attention. That is a picture of the wonderful, beautiful chaos of leading others in following Jesus. Life is not a solo. Sometimes its not a symphony. It’s a cacophony. Here, the drummer gets wicked. One, two…